Hidden Health Concerns Every 60+ Adult Should Know
You might be aware of the more significant health concerns of heart disease and stroke, but there are other not-so-publicized health issues that should be examined by those age 60+, healthcare providers, and caretakers.
Heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes are on the list of the most common, and costly, chronic health problems older adults face each year. Here are some leading statistics from the National Council on Aging regarding chronic diseases and older adults:
- Approximately 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two. Four chronic diseases—heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes cause almost two-thirds of all deaths each year.
- Chronic diseases account for 75% of the money our nation spends on health care, yet only 1% of health dollars are spent on public efforts to improve overall health.
- Diabetes affects 12.2 million Americans aged 60+ (23% of those aged 60+). An additional 57 million Americans aged 20+ have pre-diabetes, which increases a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. In a 2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program for people at high risk for developing diabetes, lifestyle intervention reduced risk by 71% among those aged 60+.
- 90% of Americans aged 55+ are at risk for hypertension, or high blood pressure. Women are more likely than men to develop hypertension, with half of women aged 60+ and 77% of women aged 75+ having this condition. Hypertension affects 64% of men aged 75+.[i]
Some of these numbers may not surprise you, especially if you suffer from one or more of these conditions, but the issues can sneak up on some older adults. It pays to take preventative measures as early as possible.
We’ll look at some hidden health issues some may experience and steps they can take now to ensure a healthier future.
Muscle Weakness in Older Adults
Muscle strength wanes over our lifespan. Leg strength is one of the first places we notice stamina decrease. There could be many reasons for a decline in muscular strength, but one major cause is inadequate amounts of protein.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids, ones the body requires from food sources. Of those nine, there are three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that consist of three amino acids—leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These essential nutrients activate protein synthesis and help prevent the breakdown of muscular tissue.
BCAAs are widely used as an exercise recovery supplement because they help preserve muscle strength and help prevent tissue breakdown. Muscle strength can be regained in most cases, but there are some health conditions that inhibits repair. As we age, it gets more and more challenging to grow and keep muscular strength. For this reason, it is critical that you feed your body high quality clean protein sources.
Another factor in leg (and overall body) strength is calcium. Calcium works to improve bone health, another common challenge for older adults. Hormonal changes, age, and vitamin D levels can impact calcium absorption. If you take a calcium supplement, read more [here] about how calcium interacts with other essential vitamins and minerals in your body.
Depression/Cognitive Impairment in Older Adults
Depression, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive and neurological conditions impact a growing number of older adults each year. Memory loss and depression are often a common symptom of these conditions.
Fueling your brain, as well as your body, is critical for healthy aging. The brain benefits from a host of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, adequate rest, and daily exercise.
Oxygen is another major factor in brain health. As we age, there are changes in our lung function, making breathing more difficult and less efficient.
If oxygen levels in the blood are low, the mental capacity of the brain is also low. This condition can result in memory loss issues, forgetfulness, ADHD, or even Alzheimer’s.
For this reason, feeding our bodies foods that contain the vitamins and minerals it needs to help produce oxygen-rich blood, and then carry the nutrients to the brain, is essential. About 70 percent of your body’s iron is found in hemoglobin and myoglobin muscle cells. Therefore, having adequate amounts of iron in the blood helps blood and brain health.
Substance Abuse in Older Adults
Due to the increase of medications, as well as the growing number of older adults that suffer from depression and pain, substance abuse is on the rise among seniors.
Seniors are dealing with significant life changes such as retirement, loss of spouse or close friends, and mental decline. Prescription drugs to treat anxiety and pain can be some of the most dangerous and addictive. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you, or someone you know or care for, is taking medication that could be habit-forming.
Ask your doctor to provide you with literature about how to identify problems and how to seek help. It can also be worth looking into natural ways of treating mild cases of depression and anxiety. Research regarding magnesium, for example, is showing its effects on depression and anxiety.
Malnutrition in Older Adults
Malnutrition is one of the most overlooked conditions in seniors that can lead to more severe issues. Poor nutrition can lead to the weakened immune system, bones, and muscle tissue.
Often, depression, also growing in older adults, is accompanied by a loss of appetite. There can be an increase in appetite as well; however, usually the foods consumed lack quality ingredients and nutrients. Among diet, there are other contributors to malnutrition.
According to an article in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, the risk factors for malnutrition in older adults are broken down into four categories.[ii]
- Medical factors: including poor appetite, pain when chewing, loss of taste and smell, respiratory disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, endocrine disorders, neurological disorders, infection, physical disability, drug interactions, and/or
- Lifestyle and social factors: including lack of knowledge about food, cooking, and nutrition, isolation and loneliness, poverty, and/or an inability to shop or prepare food.
- Psychological factors: including confusion, dementia, depression, grief, and/or
- Treatment factors during hospital stays: including food service with limited choices, slow eating and limited time for meals, missing dentures, requiring help eating, increased nutrient requirement during healing, limited provision for religious or cultural dietary needs, and/or missing meals during tests and procedures.
Even with the number of risk factors, malnutrition in older adults is on the rise and still goes unchecked. Older adult often depend on others for physical and emotional support. If you are an older adult, it is worthwhile to talk to your doctor about these conditions. It is also important to be aware of signs of malnutrition. Make sure you are getting the nutrients you need to boost your immune system and remain healthy throughout your entire life.
Check out the various ways Dead Sea Moringa is fighting against malnutrition around the world in children and adults.